Last October 8, we had the privilege of welcoming President Obama as he joined 7,000 farm workers and supporters at the dedication of the Cesar Chavez National Monument at La Paz in the small Tehachapi Mountain town of Keene, Calif. This 398th unit of the National Park Service includes a Visitor Center and museum hosting Cesar’s carefully preserved office, a Memorial Garden with his gravesite and the modest two-bedroom wood-frame house where he lived his last 22 years.
Many milestones of the farm worker movement took place on these grounds where giants walked. Some of those giants, like Cesar Chavez, are well known. But we know that the names of countless others are mostly lost to history. So we acknowledge the new National Monument in the spirit of honoring Cesar Chavez as well as the thousands of farm workers, Latinos and many others who gave themselves to the cause.
Cesar said that if the movement didn’t survive his death then his work would have been in vain. So the National Monument President Obama dedicated also affirms the men and women in our movement who labor daily to keep Cesar’s work alive by aggressively organizing farm workers and negotiating union contracts, including the three, soon to be four, UFW agreements hammered out since last spring protecting 2,000 San Joaquin Valley tomato workers. Our movement also preserves Cesar’s legacy by aiding workers outside the job site by building and managing 30 high-quality affordable housing communities in four states for low- and very low-income working families and seniors, and by running a nine-station network of educational Spanish-language radio stations reaching 500,000 daily listeners in four states.
For Cesar Chavez, "Si Se Puede!" (or "Yes We Can!") wasn’t just a slogan.